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24 May 2008 14:31
New South Wales (NSW) will travel to Christchurch to play the Canterbury Crusaders in the Super 14 rugby final after beating the Durban-based Sharks 28-13 in Sydney on Saturday.
The Waratahs scored four tries to one and were never in any real trouble against a disappointing Sharks outfit.
The Sharks opened brightly but began to wilt when they could make no inroads into the uncompromising NSW defence. Although the Sharks’ scrum was far superior their line-out was in trouble from the start.
“All credit to the Waratahs, I thought they were outstanding tonight, especially their defence—they put us under a lot of pressure,” Sharks captain Johann Muller said.
“Also in the first half our line-out didn’t function the way we wanted it to.”
The Sharks were first on the scoreboard when flyhalf Ruan Pienaar kicked an early drop goal, which was answered by a Kurtley Beale penalty shortly after.
The Waratahs then seized the initiative when Sharks centre Francois Steyn spilled the ball under pressure and NSW winger Lote Tuqiri swooped on it and ran 22 metres to score.
The Waratahs were over again soon after when young centre Rob Horne finished off a swarming attacking move and crossed in the corner.
Steyn kicked a penalty from 50m out to narrow the gap to 15-6 at halftime and give the visitors some hope.
They suffered a double blow soon after the break, however, when first Beale crossed out wide, then scrumhalf Luke Burgess intercepted a pass from the base of the scrum and strolled over untouched.
The Waratahs should have been out of sight at this stage but Beale’s woeful goal-kicking—one conversion from the first four attempts—meant the lead was only 25-6.
Sharks replacement hooker Craig Burden barged over under the posts for a converted try with 10 minutes remaining but NSW had the final say when Beale kicked a drop-goal three minutes from fulltime.
“[Defence] has been a big part of our game throughout the year and it stood up again,” NSW captain Phil Waugh said.
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